‘Gunnerkrigg Court Vol. 1: Orientation’ review
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
In order to celebrate the return of Comic Corner, I decided to explore a publisher that hasn’t been in the spotlight all that much. The comic publishing house BOOM! may not be a household name, but they do have quite a few awards under their belt—but as we all know, professional accolades are no measure for narrative success, at least in terms of popular fiction. The award-winning Gunnerkrigg Court by Thomas Siddell is worth more than just a passing glance, despite its troubles.
Written and illustrated by Siddell, the plot follows Antimony Carver as she attends the somewhat gothic boarding school Gunnerkrigg Court. The plot is a bit like Charmed meets Nancy Drew, as there are magical and occult events occurring, and it is the job of Antimony and her friend Kat to figure it all out. In this first volume, the conflicts are fairly basic, as Siddell concentrates more on world building and character development—which will come in handy later, as this is quite an extensive series. Despite all the narrative development, Siddell does still manage to establish overarching themes and resolve some of the minor conflicts he presents. It’s enough to make this first volume feel like a complete work unto itself, which I appreciate.
Artistically, I am not a fan of this book. The style is a strange blend of manga and something akin to the blunt aesthetic of late ’90s cartoons (think Angry Beavers). What this produces is a style that is too detailed to be endearing, yet too basic to be visually stimulating.
Other than the art, my only real issue with this book comes from its translation from webcomic into published series. A webcomic will often have digressions in its plot—little side stories that the artist/author will present in the middle of a larger narrative in order to give themselves a break. With traditional comics, the artist/author can simply step away and pick up from where they left off after a couple days, but with webcomics, a lot of their popularity is maintained by consistency. This means they need to have a consistent publishing schedule, so they need to put up something, even if it is a digression from their currently running plot. When Gunnerkrigg Court was published into a collected work, these digressions were left in, and therefore they became a bit of an annoyance.
Overall, I don’t regret picking this volume up, and would probably recommend it to a friend who may be into school life drama—but I probably won’t be picking up the second volume for myself.